It pays to speak up.
For families looking for relief from the heat and some entertainment, the movie Show Dogs initially seemed like a good option: The PG-rated film, featuring Will Arnett and the voice of Ludacris, is about a police dog who has to go undercover in a dog show to bust up a panda-smuggling ring.
But the plot of Show Dogs takes a very "dark and disturbing" turn, according to some viewers who were able to see the film during an advanced screening. As reported on Macaroni Kid by a mother who saw the movie with her family, there is a scene where the undercover dog, Max, is instructed by a former show dog to "go to his zen place" while judges for the dog show examine his genitals.
This actually becomes clutch to the operation, as Max's chance at winning the competition and rescuing the panda "all rests on his ability to let someone touch his private parts," says Terina Maldonado for Macaroni Kids.
"During the movie, I kept thinking, 'This is wrong, it doesn't need to be in a kids movie. Everything else in the movie is good fun except for this.' ... My daughter, on the other hand, said her favorite part of the movie was when Max got his privates touched and the funny reaction he had. I decided to use that moment to help reinforce what we have taught our children since they were little, private parts are just that, private."
Aware of the existing backlash, but uncertain of how exaggerated it may be, a reviewer for Slate says she went into the theater with an open mind toward Show Dogs. "To be clear, the movie is not actual propaganda for child abuse," says Ruth Graham for Slate. "The most disturbing theme is basically limited to two scenes, and it is almost certainly the result of lazy writing rather than a stealth pro-abuse propaganda campaign. But still: It's gross!"
As the rightful criticism grew, the producers of the film did something rare: They announced they are immediately recutting the film.
Here is the statement from Global Road Entertainment:
Responding to concerns raised by moviegoers and some specific organizations, Global Road Entertainment has decided to remove two scenes from the film Show Dogs that some have deemed not appropriate for children. The company takes these matters very seriously and remains committed to providing quality entertainment for the intended audiences based on the film's rating.
It's worth giving credit to Global Road Entertainment for responding with such swift action (that will surely come at a great expense). Still, it's unfortunate this was even okay'ed in the first place. For all the signs of progress that we are seeing in this post-Me Too era, there continue to be moments like these where it's shocking from an outside perspective that no one involved in the film raised a red flag until the movie was released.
The good news is this: Many more of us are finding our voices and speaking out when something seems wrong. The more confidence we have in doing this, the more things will change for the better.